Today would have been my father's 90th birthday, so I'm reposting this in his honor:
My Father The Writer
When I moved to Minneapolis (years ago), my father drove up with me. I spent three enthralled days on the road listening to him tell wonderful tales of growing up in Iowa: how he got his nickname Trapper (he was one); every job he ever held; how he met my mother; his time in the Navy during WWII. And how he wanted to be a writer.
After WWII, he enrolled at George Washington University to study journalism, though he had to drop out eventually to support his young family. Somewhere packed away, I have the draft of a novel he started. I don't know if there is a genetic component to writing, but his style reminds me a little of mine - quirky, fast, funny. But I could never match his storytelling bravado.
By the time The Marriage of True Minds was published, he had stopped reading. This was a great loss to him I know. For most of his life, he was a constant and intrepid reader of anything from English history to Louis L'Amour to Jean Auel's Earth's Children series (he would have been delighted to know that the last book in the series was coming out). We shared a special passion for adventure stories from the Forties by authors like Frank Yerby and Edison Marshall, Rafeal Sabatini and Harold Lamb. I would comb used bookstores and bring them to him like lost treasures out of the tales themselves.
We talked about writing a book together, about his boyhood days in Iowa. He even started making notes. The handwriting reflects the slow decline in his condition. I can't make out the last few words. The letters are too shaky.
I would have enjoyed writing that book. And I would have enjoyed reading it. He infused every tale with humor and joy in the telling. I imagine he could have been quite a writer. Instead he gave me the chance to be one. I guess that's what being a father is all about.